More international teams to return to Pakistan; Ehsan Mani

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LAHORE: Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ehsan Mani has said that he wants more international teams to return to Pakistan instead of playing at neutral venues. “It’s so important that the game wins over any threats and terrorism,” Mani told a news conference on Monday.

“The main thing is that the security and safety of the players cannot be compromised, so it was important that the Sri Lankan (cricket) board was comfortable.”

Harin Fernando, Sri Lanka’s minister for telecommunications, foreign employment and sports, said the bilateral series is important to show regional support.”Cricket has become a universal game and it’s not just about the competitiveness, but it is also about showing solidarity among the neighboring nations,” Fernando said.

“Life has to go on. We have to move on, sports should not stop. I believe players of other countries will also come.”

The team buses are heavily surrounded by armed security personnel between the hotels and the playing venues, and the main roads along the route are being blocked from normal traffic.

Security staff also keep a close eye on the spectators coming into the stadium.”What amazes me is the amount of security that have been given and how they’ve looked after it,” Fernando said.

“To see that you will recognise every gate, every aspect, every person who gets into the ground and gets out of the ground is being monitored.”

Mani said officials from Cricket Australia also visited Pakistan recently and met with government and PCB officials. Additionally, the PCB chairman said officials from England and Ireland are scheduled to visit Pakistan soon to assess the security situation.

“The message is getting across and that is why this (Sri Lanka) tour was so important for us,” Mani said.”We can all say things are fine, come and have a look, but when cricket is actually taking place in Pakistan there’s no better endorsement than that.”

Several top Sri Lanka players pulled out of the tour, but Fernando said those players who came to Pakistan could boost the confidence of those who missed out.

Pakistan is due to host Sri Lanka for two Test matches as part of World Test Championship in December and Fernando was optimistic his country would host the pair of five-day games.